The essence of alchemy,
This review is from: Buso Renkin Vol.1 [DVD] (DVD)
So after Nobuhiro Watsuki's megahit action series set in 19th-century Japan, just what would one expect of his next series?
Well, I don't know what was expected. But it turns out to be the lighter-hearted love child of "Bleach" and "Fullmetal Alchemist" -- "Buso Renkin," a fast-paced action-comedy with some darker moments sprinkled throughout the first half of the series. "Buso Renkin Set 1" does a good job introducing the hero to this weird new world, his new powers, and lots of vaguely cybernetic homunculoi.
Schoolboy Kazuki Muto has a nightmare about trying to rescue a mysterious girl, and being killed by a monster. The next day he thinks nothing more of it.... until he gets a text message telling him to enjoy his new life.
But then a surly teacher turns into a mechanical cobra and attacks him -- and Kazuki ends up trying to defend himself and his innocent sister. Turns out an alchemical device called a kakugane has replaced his heart, and it also gives him a megasized sword called a Buso Renkin. And the mystery girl he tried to rescue -- Tokiko Tsumura -- saves him once again, then reveals that there is a massive battle going on between the monstrous homunculi and the Alchemist warriors.
Though Tokiko orders him to stay out of her battles, Kazuki believes that his power means he must fight and protect the humans around him. But they're confronted by a mysterious masked boy, who is the master of the homunculi -- and even worse, he infects Tokiko with a homunculus embryo that will shortly turn her into a monster. Kazuki is determined to stop the Papillon Mask and get the antidote for Tokiko... but he may have to sacrifice his principles to do it.
And the war isn't over yet. Kazuki's nemesis isn't quite as dead as he expected, and a secret homunculus organization called the LXE is planning a coup -- and they've sent a pair of familiars in with Buso Renkin, to stop or kill Tokiko and Kazuki. And the LXE's ultimate weapon is unveiled in a vast battle at the school...
"Buso Renkin" is somewhat derivative from other action/fantasy anime out there (especially "Bleach" at first), but somehow that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. It's sort of one-third fantasy story, one third blood-spattered action and battles, and one third school-based romantic comedy -- and despite some dark and gruesome moments, the overall message is an uplifting one. Specifically: gain strength from friendship, and try to keep as many people as possible from being hurt.
Along the way there's lots of alchemical action scene, big powerful homunculi (who are metal, for some reason), high-intensity action scenes, usually with loads of flying blades, blood and bolts of energy. And there are some really dark, often gruesome moments sprinkled in as well, such as the story of Shusui and Ouka being trapped with a rotting corpse. But there's also plenty of comic relief sprinkled through the stories ("We have to give my lance a REALLY cool name!"), and more than a hint of romance.
One small warning: The climactic battle between the LXE forces and the Alchemist Warriors (plus Kazuki's wacky pals) takes a rather shocking twist, which definitely counts as a cliffhanger. It quite literally changes everything.
Kazuki is a particularly fun character -- he's an ordinary kid whose spacey, somewhat dramatic personality ("I'll avenge my death, dangit!") hides his true strength and courage. He's just an all-around good guy, with a pure heart. Tokiko is a bit harder to warm up to, since she's tough and fairly hard-nosed, but she's a solid girl-warrior with plenty of guts and personality -- and it's clear that Kazuki's enthusiasm is warming her up.
The supporting cast is pretty likable as well, especially the larger-than-life, hyper-trained Captain Bravo, and the masked Papillon (who turns from a sickly invalid to a campy archrival). The tragic twins Shusui and Ouka bring a darker shade, turning friendship to emnity; and the kooky trio of Kazuki's friends and his flaky younger sister provide plenty of comic relief, but they also serve as solid backup whenever something goes wrong.
"Buso Renkin Set 1" is a thoroughly solid, action-packed little anime series, with a likably sunny hero and plenty of imposing homunculi. And the story ain't over yet...